Acquiring enough personal protective equipment and supplies to test for and treat COVID-19 in the United States was a major challenge in 2020. With case numbers rising and vaccines rolling out, managing supplies and reducing waste continues as a huge issue this year.
Isolation gowns, gloves, masks, needles, syringes and vials discarded after use: some waste is inevitable, but supply chain leaders are finding ways to reduce the quantity, reusing and recycling when possible and adjusting procurement and packaging to help the environment and sometimes their bottom line.
Hospitals generate around 30 pounds of waste per patient per day, said Janet Howard, member engagement director of Practice Greenhealth, a nonprofit environmental stewardship membership organization. The Healthcare Plastics Recycling Council said that amounts to about 14,000 tons of waste daily, a quarter of which is plastic packaging and products. The World Health Organization estimates that about 85% of hospital waste is noninfectious, making the bulk of it easier to dispose and potentially recycle.
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